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Ex-Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum announces creation of voter registration campaign

Former Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, who narrowly lost the race for Florida governor in November, announced Wednesday he will be launching a voter registration initiative in Florida. Its goal is to help Democrats win the state in 2020 and "evict Donald Trump" from the White House.

"We are going to commit ourselves to registering and engaging one million voters between now and 2020's presidential election," Gillum told a crowd in Miami. "The road to the White House runs through Florida. We can deny Donald Trump a second term right here in the state of Florida."

Gillum said he had been encouraged by some of his supporters to run for President in 2020, but that he was focused on his home state.

"This isn't the sexy work. I gotta admit. I'm sure it's probably more fun for some of those out there running for President," he said. But he said he is ready to do "the hard work of democracy."

"How many states can you say, by themselves, have the ability to deny this man a return to the White House?" Gillum added. "I can't think of a bigger, better, more important state than the state of Florida, than for us to send that message."

Gillum's PAC, Forward Florida, continued to raise money after his loss in November. Forward Flordia had $3.9 million available as of February 28 to fund his registration efforts, according to the Tallahassee Democrat. He will also have a pool of roughly 1.4 million newly eligible voters after Floridians supported a constitutional amendment in November restoring voting rights to convicted felons who completed their sentences.

But a new proposal by Republicans in Florida's state legislature would set conditions on restoring felons' voting rights, in part by requiring them to pay back court fees and civil fines before their rights are restored. 

Republican lawmakers argue the the language in the ballot measure did not properly define what it means to complete a sentence.

Gillum called on the legislature to "get its hands off" of the amendment, and critics of the Republican proposal have compared the requirements to poll taxes that were outlawed by the 24th Amendment.

"It's not only targeting the poor and is targeting minorities, but it's blatantly unconstitutional as a poll tax," said State Rep. Adam Hattersley, a Democrat. "The will of the voters is clear, and this bill is trying to circumvent that."

Republican lawmakers bristled at the accusation, including Rep. James Grant, who is the Criminal Justice Committee chairman.   

"To suggest that this is a poll tax inherently diminishes what a poll tax actually is," Grant said.

The measure passed the Florida House Criminal Justice committee on a party-line vote Tuesday.

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